Posted September 6, 2013
ChaoFang (Ann) Tan, a senior microbiology major at Idaho State University from Boise, was awarded top honors at the 12th annual Idaho Idea Network Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) conference for her research in the subject of bacterial pathogenesis.
Tan's Faculty Choice Award-winning research focused on the biochemical enrichment of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa protein that is believed to aid in the secretion of an associated bacterial toxin. As an undergraduate INBRE fellow, Tan performed research equivalent to a graduate student, contributing a wealth of information to her project. Specifically, Tan conducted multiple biochemical techniques to isolate a bacterial protein that is believed to aid in the secretion of this toxin. Once confirmed, her research will help biomedical scientists understand how this toxin contributes to Pseudomonas infections. These infections occur in the lungs of individuals with compromised health, such as people with cystic fibrosis and the elderly.
"Our general research interests include bacterial pathogenesis and host-pathogen interactions, specifically focusing on virulence factors such as toxins," said Marc Benson, ISU assistant professor of microbiology. "P. aeruginosa releases several toxins into the host that mediate the spread of the infection within the host and the severity of the infection. Although we generally think of toxins as hazardous, multiple bacterial toxins have been used as reagents to enhance our understanding of human cell biology and some have even been used to treat certain medical ailments."
The INBRE program is a statewide program funded by the National Institutes of Health to the tune of $16.5 million over a five-year period. Its mission is to increase Idaho's competitiveness for federal biomedical research funding. Part of reaching that vision is developing new scientists. The program is administrated through the University of Idaho and sponsors undergraduate students from Idaho’s universities for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. These students serve researchers at Idaho State University, University of Idaho, Boise State University and Boise Veterans Administration Medical Center.
"The research that Ms. Tan and Dr. Benson are conducting on bacterial toxins may have some exciting implications for human health," said Howard Grimes, vice president for the ISU Office for Research and Economic Development. "We are delighted to see so many meaningful opportunities for undergraduates to conduct biomedical research at ISU, and applaud the biology department for accommodating these students into active and productive labs."
In light of the success of the INBRE Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, ISU has decided to build on this program by folding it into the larger ISU Career Path Internship program. The CPI program is designed to provide students with paid substantive, career building opportunities, and hundreds of students have benefited. The CPI program has formed a partnership with INBRE, and intends to use INBRE's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program as a model for future programs in other disciplines, including ecology and conservation biology, history, geosciences, psychology, and dozens of other fields .
"The CPI-INBRE partnership represents an intersection of research, education, and career development that creates outstanding opportunities for our students," said Michael Thomas, professor of biology and academic director for the molecular research core facility. "The partnership is unique in the state of Idaho and reflects ISU's commitment to ensure our programs reflect the changing needs of our students, preparing them for exciting and productive careers."
More information about INBRE is available at http://inbre.uidaho.edu/ and at http://inbre.isu.edu.